Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ruminating on the Rays: Looking for new magic to the same old songs

Although they are 4-0 with me in attendance, the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays have so far been a disappointment. Following 2007, a 16-20 record would not have been a bad start. Fans may have even gotten excited over being so close to .500. But unfortunately for the 2009 Rays, the 2008 season happened. 97 wins and a trip to the World Series is a lot to live up to.

There are a lot of theories as to why the Rays are struggling: injuries, regression, the loss of key personalities from 2008, etc, etc. You can read about them on better blogs than mine. I have my own theory, however, on why the Rays are struggling in 2009: no new tunes in Tropicana Field. They are jamming to the same songs from 2008.

Last year, I wrote about the Rays player's at-bat music. This year, they are coming to bat to the same songs. As a matter of fact, some of the harder, more aggressive songs have even been removed from the playlist. Pantera's "Walk" and "I'm Broken" were often played last year before the at-bats of Eric Hinske and Evan Longoria, respectively. Now with Hinske gone and Longoria using only Tantric's "Down and Out", there are no more metal songs in the Rays lineup. Although I can't argue with Longoria's production, I don't know why the team didn't pick new songs for 2009. It would be nice to hear something new, something fresh, and something that proves we are not stuck clinging to 2008.

The lack of head-banging tunes might also be the reason that before Friday night the Rays played as if they had no marbles.

A few weeks ago, RaysTheStakes compared the Rays to the fictional Indians in Major League 2. Although I think they nailed the background and some of the individual comparisons (Pat Burrell as Jack Parkman), I think they were way off on others. For example, instead of comparing Matt Garza to Rick Vaughn's character, I think the more apt comparison is fellow starter Scott Kazmir.

Kazmir has been terrible this season. Absolutely atrocious (4 wins, 3 losses, and a 6.97 ERA). In Friday night's game, he never once topped 90mph with his fastball according to the scoreboard radar gun. Not once. For someone who has led the league in strikeouts, that's pathetic. He hasn't been the ace of the staff in over a year, and there is even growing talk that the Rays would be better off parting ways with him. My personal opinion is that with too many of the Rays pitching prospects still struggling in the minors, trading a big league pitcher, no matter how bad he is, is a risky venture. But if David Price, for example, gets his act together in the minors before Kazmir gets his together at the big club, it might be time to entertain offers for Kid K.

Despite Kazmir's lackluster performance Friday night, he was bailed out when the Rays managed to claw their way back and win with an Upton homer in the bottom of the 9th. If the Rays start playing better, I am sure this game will have a lot to do with it. It may be one of those games the players look back on and call a turning point. Especially BJ Upton, who was definitely due a confidence boost in the power department. However, if Kazmir and fellow struggling starters Andy Sonnanstine and Jeff Neimann continue to throw batting practice to the opposition for four or less innings, no amount of offensive confidence and production can save the Rays sinking ship.

And now, without further ado, I present the Rays current leaders in JSIA BA, JSIA HR, JSIA RBIs, and JSIA SB:

Batting Average with Jordi Scrubbings in Attendence:

B.J. Upton: .428 (6 for 14)
Carl Crawford: .385 (5 for 13)
Carlos Pena: .353 (6 for 17)

Home Runs with Jordi Scrubbings in Attendance:

Carlos Pena: 3
Ben Zobrist: 2
4 others tied with: 1

Runs batted in with Jordi Scrubbings in Attendance:

Carlos Pena: 9
Evan Longoria: 7
Ben Zobrist: 5

Stolen Bases with Jordi Scrubbings in Attendance:

BJ Upton: 5
Carl Crawford: 4
Jason Barlett: 2